Legal Aid, Breastfeeding & Discrimination

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Legal Aid QLD has a policy that children not be present during appointments or conferences. I found out about this when I showed up at the local office with a breastfeeding baby asleep in the sling. My two older children were not with me at the time.

The woman there kept retiaritating children were not to be present and was obviously referring to Shae, so I rang up to speak to my appointed lawyer. It didn't go well!

I was told this was a Legal Aid policy not a personal decision of hers. She went on to say the policy was established because it is inappropriate for older children to hear things that might relate to them, (I agree wholeheartedly hence my older two in care) and in the case of younger children and babies, that they often distract the client from the appointment and advice given. Uh, whaaa...t?

It kinda sounded a bit insulting, implying I was incapable of multitasking (a mothering necessity), with the whiff of the sexist concept that women lose their ability to comprehend things once they get pregnant and have a baby! And of course, I resented that all babies are seen as distracting, noisy, wailing things. There must be something wrong with society if most babies are really like that. Makes me wonder about unmet needs and whatnot!

Anyway regardless, this was discrimination towards me as a breastfeeding mother. Even if the policy did not intend to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers, any rules or conditions of a service that prevent us from using the service given our obligations or needs, is considered indirect discrimination by law.

I pursued this via the complaints department of Legal Aid QLD, and was assigned another lawyer who assured me the policy was about safety of children in family law cases more than anything. However, I made sure Legal Aid QLD reviewed this policy to ensure it did not leave room for staff members in the future to interpret this as meaning ALL children, including breastfeeding babies.

And here we are, at the LA conference;

So much for breastfed babies with their needs met, distracting their mamas from being able to focus on business at hand! If you ask me I think the others were more interested in Shae than I was - "Awww soooo cute!" "How old is she?" "Wow, this is the first we've seen her face!" (She was hidden deep in the sling asleep and non-existent most of the time!) and my favourite - "She is so quiet and happy!"


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